Breakin' It Down: The Sochi 2014 Olympic Opening Ceremony

I wasn't sure, originally, if I was going to post a "review" of the opening ceremony. But then a couple of friends told me I should, and who am I to turn down a request like that? :) I might not have the insight I had into London 2012's Opening Ceremony, but that also means I don't have the emotional attachment either. I did, however, live-tweet the whole three-hour saga, and I may or may not have been looking for an excuse to try the whole "embedded tweets" thing. So let's get this party started!

Was anyone else as bummed about this as I was? I always look forward to the creative way a ceremony will present the Olympic rings, and it's always a highlight of the production. Not only this, but Google image search any of the modern opening ceremonies and the rings come up close to the top. These are always the enduring images of the ceremonies, and it's so disappointing that Sochi's flopped so spectacularly. If this isn't redone, the four rings and a snowflake will be the image everyone takes away.

Mass movement isn't something I ever really thought about before my time with London 2012 Ceremonies, but none of this could be done without it! As opposed to traditional choreography, mass choreography is (somewhat obviously) the movements of large amounts of people in a group. It's how the crowds of performers get to where they need to be, it's the incredible shapes that are made by hundreds of people, etc. That flag is one example. It's an incredibly precise operation!

I mean, seriously. Was this not the coolest? It kind of reminded me of what they did in Beijing during the parade of nations, when each nation walked across an ink pad and then a giant canvas that later became part of the ceremony. I love when something is added to the parade of nations to make it just a little more special, and this was symbolic to boot!

Are you for real, Meredith? It's the Cyrillic alphabet. Not all that hard to explain. "Yes, it's different than the alphabet that English speakers are familiar with, which is why the countries are entering in seemingly random order."

Hooray for warm-weather countries getting some representation! I think my favorite entrance was Venezuela, whose flag bearer was just having a total dance party. Every athlete should be that excited to be there! :) Now, granted, a lot of the athletes representing the warm-weather countries don't actually live there, but I'm on board with this system. Not only does it get these countries interested in the winter Olympics by giving them a rooting interest, but it allows more athletes to achieve their Olympic dreams. As someone who achieved my dream by any means necessary, I'm down with these folks gettin' it done however they can.

True story! The athlete marshals are instructed as to what to do and all have earpieces in during the show (more of that mass movement stuff!), but the marching you see is the first time it happens.

Because few things scream America more than the stars and stripes... but something that does is an ensemble of sheepskin coats and cowboys hats. Yeehaw!

'Nuff said. :)

Did I notice this correctly? In the "thousand years of history in three minutes" little video clip, was the Soviet era completely bypassed? Or did I blink and miss it?

The floor of the stadium was one of the coolest things I've ever seen (that ship sequence! Sheesh!), but I was especially blown away by the map. They had men marching in formation on it and interacting with what was going on in the projection, and the effect it had was incredible.

I had the pleasure of knowing Steve Boyd in London. He's been a part of every Olympics in recent memory, and was in charge of mass choreography for London 2012 and Vancouver 2010 (and, incidentally, High School Musical 3). If you watch either of those ceremonies, it doesn't take long to see that he's beyond brilliantly talented. He also happens to be overwhelmingly appreciative of ceremony volunteers and an absolute gem of a person to work with!

This was going to be the real test, in my eyes: could Russia put on a positive ceremony without totally glossing over all the bad bits of its history? Turns out they could! Of course it was going to overlook some things, because the nature of opening ceremonies is to be positive and proud, but they handled things very well. Viewers really got a sense of the different eras and how things progressed. The Soviet era was represented as industrial, uniform and kind of big and scary. And red, lots of red. They may not've specifically said, "hey, lots of people were murdered during this time!" but that would've just been dumb. Instead, the ceremony conveyed a dark, ominous feeling that gave you a sense of what happened. And the moment of tribute to lives lost in World War II was fantastic.

I don't remember his exact words, but I do remember that there was a lot about being tolerant and understanding. And not "we should..." but "we will..." Like he was almost giving commands. You WILL be tolerant. He's starting out his IOC presidency in the middle of a maelstrom, and it was good (if a little shocking) to see him laying it out there like that.

Calling all Olympians (or was it all Olympic medalists?) "Olympic gods" might be a teensy bit hyperbolic, but wow. This. was. incredible.

Funny. He's probably the greatest goalie in hockey history, but he's forever immortalized in America for giving up a last-second goal to Mark Johnson and getting taken out of the game that eventually became the Miracle on Ice. Oops?

Odd thing to be bummed about, yes. But Russian Olympic games seem to have a strange obsession with their mascots. Exhibit A:

Yes, that is a field full of dancing Mishas. And a giant, inflatable Misha. And, uh, is Leopard imitating Usain Bolt? I don't get it. But I was looking forward to it.

Woohoo! But when the camera angle on Fisht Olympic Stadium and the cauldron is just right, all I can see is...

A comparison to The Big Owe probably wasn't what they're going for. But based on Sochi's budget overrun, it might be a pretty apt one. :P

Overall, there was a lot about this ceremony that I absolutely loved (some going unmentioned, like the troika and the doves), but I didn't emotionally connect to it. It absolutely fascinated me and it was beautiful and I couldn't tear my eyes away, but my eyes remained dry and I walked away feeling a bit short of awestruck. Definitely (definitely) impressed, but not blown out of the water.

So tell me! What are your thoughts on the opening ceremony?

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  1. I said the SAME THING about the cauldron and the Big O!

    Wish I could've watched with you...I love your insider's insight. (And, I miss you!)

    1. Hahaha that makes me happy! Glad I'm not the only one who saw the resemblance! :D

      I'm not much of an insider anymore, just got some general ceremony knowledge. :) Miss you too!

  2. I heard NBC cut out all the communist stuff!

    1. OH, really?! I know they cut out a bunch of Bach's speech, which makes zero sense because what they cut was all anti-discrimination... but what the heck?! Guess this is just an excuse to watch the FULL ceremony on YouTube at some point!

  3. I watched this life and was sooo glad I did. They did a really great job!

    1. That's high praise from someone living in Russia! :) Have the Russian folk been saying good things?

  4. I enjoyed it for the most part ... and exclaimed aloud to Meredith Viera the same thing tweeted! I almost scored one of those Misha bears the other day, unfortunately I mulled over buying it a little too long and lost out on it :(

    1. Oh NO! Was it all decked out in American garb or was it a pre-boycott Misha?